I scramble up and over the rusted-out hull of a small craft, lifting myself off what looks like a long mast dipping into water thick with oil slicks and who knows what else. Inside the boat, Cato walks one of the few planks left in the decayed deck. The opposite side of the plank shifts and lifts off the beam supporting it, and we all hold our breath. But Cato’s footing is firm and he crosses the deck and climbs down the opposite side. This hull sits in one below it like nesting bowls, a stack that makes up just a small fraction of the Staten Island Ship Graveyard.
Even before I left Cambridge, I was already investigating what sort of short bike tours I might be able to make out of NYC and beyond. And before I even found a bike to carry me, I’d already signed up for a ride. A few weeks ago, the New York City Homebrewers Guild made its second annual ride to Captain Lawrence Brewing in Elmsford, NY. Not only was it my first long ride since returning to the States, it was also my first group ride, which was a whole new biking experience.
IPAs are the bread and butter of most American craft breweries. It’s the style I’m most likely to order when I’m at a bar or restaurant, as most breweries have a handle on the style by now. Since I have chosen to brew many different styles, I’ve only brewed a straight-forward IPA once, and never from all grain. One of the side-effects of this deficiency is that I don’t feel comfortable with my knowledge of hops. Additionally I usually don’t have any hoppy beers on hand, despite that often being just what I’m in the mood to drink.
In their books, accomplished homebrewers often advise the reader to keep notes on how the character of a brew evolves over time. A brewer who has insight into how flavors and aromas lent by malt, hops, and yeast evolve over time can adjust the recipes and technique to make a beer ready for consumption sooner or improve its longevity by trying to achieve stable characteristics. With this in mind, I’ve waited over a month to review my session ale, but I’ve found that over that month the only thing that’s changed are my perceptions and opinions of the beer, while the characteristics of the beer itself have not.
I’ve been interested in adding fruit to my brewing, but with only one fermenter, I can’t commit to a long aging period. This has focused my attention into quicker fruiting methods, such as using pomegranate molasses. While at the Cambridge Beer Festival, I had a beer spiked with beet root, which got me thinking about vegetables in beer. Around the same time I spotted some vibrant stalks of rhubarb at the market and happened to come across this recipe for rhubarb syrup. I couldn’t ask for a more appealing confluence of inspirations – I had to seek out this tart vegetable to try brewing with it.
Six months have passed since I was last in the States. It was a long time without brewing. I came back feeling a bit apprehensive, somewhat doubtful that my brewing abilities didn’t atrophy. Nonetheless I was eager to turn around something quick, and so just a few hours after my return, I walked over to Bitter & Esters to pick up ingredients to brew a new version of my summer session ale, now named Lazy Day Ale. While I might enjoy this beer on such a day in just a few weeks, brew day was anything but lazy, exercising my new knowledge of brewing water as well as trying out some new beer body building techniques.
Welcome to Night Vale – Episode 35: Lazy Day
I rose early Sunday morning, put on a pair of purple nitrile gloves, and flipped my bike over to adjust my rear derailleur. The previous evening, I’d struggled up the steep hill to the hostel without being able to reach my lowest gear. I knew I had a long day ahead with many steep climbs, and was eager to get going with an ample 12 hours to reach Sheffield before my train departed. I didn’t yet realize just how much of a challenge the 65 miles and around 1600 meters of ascent would present.
(Saturday evening’s route in blue. Sunday’s route in red.)
“This was for the gentry.” We all looked down at what appeared to be a lidless coffin. “They didn’t want to get wet, so they were floated under this arch in this box. We’re not the gentry. You’re gonna get wet.” We walked to the end of the show cave, which terminated with a gate barring a steep descent through a mouth the size of a two elephants joined trunk to tail and extending far enough that we couldn’t illuminate the bottom with our headlamps. “Can you imagine this in flood? The water comes right up to this gate.” I tried to imagine it. How many aquariums would I have to drain to fill this hole? We opened the gate. Continue reading
Two minutes in and my shins were nettlestung and I was watching as my tire tread clogged full with mud. This was my welcome to the South Downs Way, a trail in use for thousands of years extending 100 miles through chalk hills from Winchester to Eastbourne. I had been warned that the ride demanded the right tires and low gears, but emboldened by my bouncing through Thetford Forest, I waved aside the warnings as caution for families and older riders who couldn’t push as hard as I can. In another few minutes I’d cleared the wooded path and was onto my first climb. Huffing and puffing, chest heaving, I dismounted on a small level patch while two older riders cycled on. “You’ve done the hardest part!”
(First day’s route in blue, second day in red.)
Last weekend I finally went on a cycle trip that I’d been planning before I even arrived in England. My travels have taken me to mountain tops, rushing down white water, and left me lost in thick wood, but I’d never yet ventured into the Earth. So I set my sight on Grime’s Graves, a neolithic flint mine in the midst of Thetford Forest.
(The route of the first day is in blue, while the second day is in red.)